The all-time World Cup finals league table
- 11 December 2013
- From the section World
The World Cup kicks off six months from today, hosted by five-times winners Brazil. As a nation, Brazil's knack of winning the tournament is well renowned and many supporters will have them as firm favourites to win a sixth trophy.
But what if the World Cup was a league? This chart imagines what an all-time league ranking might look like.
We've allocated three points for a win and a point for a draw for all group and knockout stages since 1930. You can search by team, total points and points per game. You might be surprised by some of the results.
Brazil are the only team to have appeared in every World Cup finals tournament. They won their first tournament in 1958, with a young Pele scoring two in the final. Using our scoring system, they also finished top in the slightly odd 1950 tournament which suffered from countries withdrawing. The actual winners were Uruguay.
Brazil's main contender for the title of most consistent World Cup performers is Germany. They have finished in the top eight every year since 1950, when the country was still under post-war occupation and not allowed to compete. Germany have won the tournament three times, including in 1974, though on our chart Poland come out on top that year, just edging it on goal difference.
England are the only home nation to win the World Cup and also have the best record, frequently finishing in the top ten. Scotland's slow decline is evident, but all the home teams start to struggle as the game goes truly global and the tournament expands. The only year featuring all four nations was 1958, with both Wales - making their only finals appearance to date - and Northern Ireland finishing in the top eight.
Three-time winner Pele once famously predicted than an African team "would win the World Cup before the year 2000". No African team has yet progressed beyond the quarter-finals, but nearly all have shown an improvement in results in the last decade. Cameroon have the longest unbroken series of finals appearances but haven't quite re-captured the splash they made in 1990, where Roger Milla's goals won over many neutrals.
2010: Hosts South Africa, winners Spain
- England were humiliated 4-1 by Germany in the last 16 after finishing second behind United States in the group stages, where Fabio Capello's team had drawn 1-1 with the Americans and 0-0 with Algeria, before beating Slovenia 1-0.
- The biggest shock of the tournament came when Switzerland beat European champions Spain 1-0, but the Swiss failed to win another match - losing to 1-0 to Chile and drawing 0-0 with Honduras.
- Italy finished bottom of their group, drawing 1-1 with Paraguay and New Zealand before losing 3-2 to Slovakia, while France also lost group matches to Mexico (2-0) and hosts South Africa (2-1) as they suffered an early exit.
- The Netherlands beat Brazil 2-1 in the quarters and Uruguay 3-2 in the final four, while Spain won 1-0 against Germany in the semis before winning their first World Cup with a 1-0 extra-time victory over the Dutch.
2006: Hosts Germany, winners Italy
- England progressed through the group stages unbeaten as they won 1-0 against Paraguay and 2-0 against Trinidad and Tobago before drawing 2-2 with Sweden. A 1-0 victory over Ecuador followed before Sven-Goran Eriksson's side lost on penalties to Portugal in the quarter-finals, England finishing with 10 men following Wayne Rooney's sending-off.
- It was a competition of few shocks as six former champions reached the quarter-finals, where France beat Brazil 1-0 and hosts Germany eliminated Argentina on penalties.
- That left four European teams in the semi-finals as Italy beat Germany 2-0 in extra time, before France knocked out Portugal 1-0.
- Italy won the final on penalties, but not before legendary France midfielder Zinedine Zidane was sent off in extra-time for headbutting Italy's Marco Materazzi in the chest.
2002: Hosts Japan and South Korea, winners Brazil
- In the first World Cup to be jointly hosted, England progressed after a nervy 1-0 group-stage victory over Argentina and draws with Sweden (1-1) and Nigeria (0-0). England, managed by Sven-Goran Eriksson, then hammered Denmark 3-0 in the next round before being eliminated 2-1 in the quarter-finals by Brazil, the winning goal a freakish free-kick from Ronaldinho which caught out goalkeeper David Seaman.
- The Republic of Ireland also qualified, going through the group stages unbeaten as they drew 1-1 with Cameroon and Germany, before beating Saudi Arabia 3-0. Robbie Keane's 90th-minute strike helped them take Spain to penalties in the next round, where they lost 3-2 in the shootout.
- From Senegal's 1-0 victory over defending champions France in the opening match, to South Korea's run to the semi-finals via victories over Italy (2-1) and Spain (5-3 on penalties), it was a tournament of shock results.
- Germany finally ended Korea's run with a 1-0 win, but Rudi Voller's side were beaten 2-0 in the final by Brazil, with golden-boot winner Ronaldo scoring both to take his tournament tally to eight. Turkey were surprise third-place finishers.
1998: Hosts France, winners France
- Scotland's last qualification to date ended in another group stage exit, with a 2-1 defeat to Brazil and 3-0 loss to Morocco sandwiching a 1-1 draw with Norway.
- Glenn Hoddle's England were eventually knocked out by Argentina in the last 16 match, which went to a penalty shoot-out with scores locked at 2-2 after extra-time. A teenage Michael Owen scored a fine individual effort before David Beckham was sent off. In the group stages, England beat Tunisia 2-0 and lost 2-1 to Romania, before beating Colombia 2-0.
- Spain failed to progress past the group stages after losing 3-2 against Nigeria, while Croatia made a surprise run to the semi-finals after they beat Germany 3-0 in the last eight.
- Hosts France, who beat Italy on penalties in the quarters, ended Croatia's run with a 2-1 win in the last-four before enjoying a 3-0 victory over Brazil in the final, with Zinedine Zidane scoring twice.
1994: Hosts USA, winners Brazil
- With England failing to qualify, the Republic of Ireland took centre-stage, shocking Italy 1-0 in their opening game before losing 2-1 to Mexico and drawing 0-0 with Norway. Their tournament ended in the last 16, when they lost 2-0 to Netherlands.
- Bulgaria, aided by Hristo Stoichkov's six goals, were the tournament's surprise package as they beat Argentina 2-0 in the group stages, Mexico on penalties in the second round and then holders Germany 2-1 in the last eight. Romania also shone, beating Argentina 3-2 in the knockout stages, before losing to Sweden on penalties in the quarters.
- Brazil, featuring the Romario-Bebeto strike partnership, beat Russia 2-0 and Cameroon 3-0 in the opening round, before knocking out the hosts USA 1-0, beating the Netherlands 3-2 and Sweden 1-0. Italy also impressed on their way to the final by beating Norway 1-0, Nigeria 2-1, Spain 2-1, and Bulgaria 2-1 in the semi-finals.
- Brazil lifted the crown after beating Italy on penalties after a goalless final. Roberto Baggio missed the decisive spot-kick.
1990: Hosts Italy, winners West Germany
- England enjoyed their best World Cup showing since 1966. After a slow start, with successive draws against the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands, they beat Egypt 1-0 to progress to the knockout stages where they beat Belgium 1-0 and Cameroon 3-2, both after extra time. In a nerve-shredding semi-final, which saw midfielder Paul Gascoigne shed tears after being given a yellow card which would have barred him from the final, they lost 4-3 on penalties after extra time finished 1-1.
- The Republic of Ireland recorded three draws in the group stages, against England, Egypt and the Netherlands, before beating Romania 5-4 on penalties in the next round. They were eliminated the quarter-final phase, losing 1-0 to hosts Italy. Scotland also qualified, but again failed to make it out of their group, losing 1-0 to Costa Rica and Brazil either side of a 2-1 win against Sweden.
- Cameroon shocked the world by opening the tournament with a 1-0 win against defending champions Argentina, before beating Romania 2-1. Their run, powered by the goals of the evergreen Roger Milla, continued into the knockout stages when they beat Colombia 2-1, before losing to England.
- Hosts Italy lost 4-3 on penalties to Argentina in the semis, before West Germany beat the South Americans 1-0 in an ill-tempered final.
1986: Hosts Mexico, winners Argentina
- England's participation was infamously ended by Diego Maradona's 'Hand of God' 2-1 quarter-final defeat by Argentina. After losing their opening game 1-0 to Portugal, Bobby Robson's side had drawn with Morocco, and beaten both Poland and Paraguay 3-0 to reach the last-eight.
- Scotland failed to win a match, losing 1-0 to Denmark and 2-1 to West Germany before drawing 0-0 with Uruguay. Similarly Northern Ireland drew 1-1 with Algeria, but lost 2-1 to Spain and 3-0 to Brazil.
- Belgium impressed on their way to the semi-finals, beating the Soviet Union 4-3 in the last 16 and Spain on penalties in the quarters before losing 2-0 to Argentina in the semis.
- West Germany, who beat France 2-0 in their semi-final, were Argentina's opponents in a thrilling final which the South Americans won 3-2. England's Gary Lineker won the Golden Boot with six goals.
1982: Hosts Spain, winners Italy
- Northern Ireland were one of the surprise packages as they beat hosts Spain 1-0 in the group stages after drawing 1-1 against Honduras and 0-0 with Yugoslavia. However, they were knocked out in the second round after a 2-2 draw with Austria and a 4-1 defeat to France.
- England, managed by Ron Greenwood, won all three first-round matches against France (3-1), Czechoslovakia (2-0) and Kuwait (1-0), but went out in the second group stage following goalless draws with West Germany and Spain.
- Scotland did not make it past the first round despite opening with a 5-2 win over New Zealand. They lost their next match 4-1 to Brazil, and ended with a 2-2 draw against the Soviet Union.
- European champions West Germany were humbled 2-1 by Algeria early in the tournament, but recovered to beat France on penalties in the semis, after the match ended 3-3. They lost 3-1 to Italy in the final.
1978: Hosts Argentina, winners Argentina
- Scotland were once more the only home nation to reach Argentina in 1978, but again went home after the first group stage. They started with a 3-1 defeat against Peru, drew 1-1 with Iran, and beat the Netherlands 3-2, with Archie Gemmill scoring twice.
- There were several early surprises, with Austria beating Spain 2-1 and Sweden 1-0 as they topped their group ahead of Brazil. Peru finished ahead of the Netherlands, while Poland topped a group also containing West Germany.
- West Germany were eliminated in the second group stage after drawing 0-0 with Italy, 2-2 with the Netherlands, and losing 3-2 to Austria.
- The Netherlands, who also beat Austria 5-1 and Italy 2-1 in the second round, played Argentina in the final but were beaten 3-1 after extra-time as Mario Kempes scored twice before the hosts lifted the trophy.
1974: Hosts West Germany, winners West Germany
- With England failing to qualify, Scotland led the home nations' challenge, but went out in the first round despite being unbeaten. They won 2-0 against Zaire and drew with Brazil 0-0 and Yugoslavia 1-1.
- Hosts West Germany finished runners-up to East Germany in the group stages, losing 1-0 to their neighbours who also beat Australia 2-0 and drew 1-1 with Chile. Poland also impressed in the first round, beating Argentina 3-2 and Italy 2-1.
- With eight teams split into two groups in the second round, the Netherlands and West Germany came through to reach the final, both teams winning all three games.
- West Germany came from behind to beat Netherlands 2-1 in the final, with Poland beating Brazil 1-0 to finish third.
1970: Hosts Mexico, winners Brazil
- Holders England let a 2-0 lead slip and lost 3-2 in extra time to West Germany in the quarter-finals. In the earlier group stages, Alf Ramsey's side beat Romania 1-0 and Czechoslovakia 1-0, between a 1-0 defeat to a Pele-inspired Brazil.
- The Soviet Union impressed in the group stages as they drew 0-0 with hosts Mexico, beat Belgium 4-1 and El Salvador 2-0. However, they lost 1-0 in extra-time to Uruguay in the last eight.
- Italy impressed in the knockout stages, beating Mexico 4-1 and West Germany 4-3, while Brazil won 4-2 against Peru and 3-1 against Uruguay.
- In a classic final, legendary Brazilians Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson and Carlos Alberto scored in a 4-1 victory over Italy.
1966: Hosts England, winners England
- Held in England, won by England. Skippered by Bobby Moore, England drew 0-0 with Uruguay before beating Mexico 2-0 and France 2-0 in the group stages. They then beat Argentina 1-0 and Portugal 2-1 to set up a final against West Germany.
- North Korea provided the shock of the tournament when they beat Italy 1-0. With Pele's genius blunted by brutal tackling, Brazil’s fortunes slumped and they made a group stage exit after defeats to Hungary and Portugal.
- The Soviet Union won all three group matches against North Korea (3-0), Italy (1-0) and Chile (2-1) before beating Hungary 2-1 in the quarters. West Germany, who hammered Uruguay 4-0 at the last-eight stage, knocked out the Soviets with a 2-1 win in the final four.
- England's Geoff Hurst scored a hat-trick in the final as Alf Ramsey's side beat West Germany 4-2 after extra-time in front of 98,000 fans at Wembley Stadium.
1962: Hosts Chile, winners Brazil
- England, still managed by Walter Winterbottom, were knocked out in the quarter-finals 3-1 by Brazil. They opened with a 2-1 loss against Hungary but recovered to beat Argentina 3-1 and draw with Bulgaria 0-0 before their Brazil defeat.
- Czechoslovakia reached the final, beating Spain 1-0 in the group stages and holding Brazil to a goalless draw. Their good form continued into the knockout stages as they defeated Hungary 1-0 and Yugoslavia 3-1.
- Yugoslavia had ended West Germany's hopes in the quarter-finals (1-0), while Italy failed to make it past the group stage, a 2-0 defeat to hosts Chile proving costly.
- Brazil beat Chile 4-2 in the semi-finals to ensure a final against Czechoslovakia, in which they came from behind to win 3-1.
1958: Hosts Sweden, winners Brazil
- England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales all participated at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.
- Only Northern Ireland and Wales reached the quarter-finals, where Northern Ireland lost 4-0 against France, and lost 1-0 to Brazil. Northern Ireland had defeated Czechoslovakia 2-1 in a play-off to qualify from their group, while Wales beat Hungary 2-1 in their decisive first-round match.
- Walter Winterbottom's England, who had drawn 2-2 against the Soviet Union, 0-0 with Brazil and 2-2 with Austria, lost 1-0 to the Soviets in their play-off. Scotland failed to win a match, drawing 1-1 with Yugoslavia and losing 3-2 to Paraguay and 2-1 to France.
- Hosts Sweden beat the Soviet Union 2-0 and West Germany 3-1 in the knockout stages, while Brazil hammered France 5-2 in the semis to reach the final, where the South Americans won 5-2 against the Swedes, with Vava and Pele both scoring twice.
1954: Hosts Switzerland, winners West Germany
- It was a 4-2 quarter-final defeat to Uruguay for Walter Winterbottom's England in 1954, following a group-stage 4-4 draw with Belgium and 2-0 victory over hosts Switzerland.
- Hungary, with the legendary Ferenc Puskas in their ranks, were ruthless in the group stages as they beat South Korea 9-0 and West Germany 8-3. They won a fiery encounter against Brazil 4-2 in the quarters before beating Uruguay 4-2 to book their place in the final.
- Austria beat Switzerland 7-5 in an amazing last-eight clash, but they fell 6-1 to West Germany in the final four.
- West Germany, who were only reinstated as full Fifa members four years earlier, won an entertaining final against Hungary 3-2 despite going 2-0 down after just eight minutes.
1950: Hosts Brazil, winners Uruguay
- With Scotland withdrawing before the draw was made, England were Britain's only representatives at Brazil 1950. However, the side, managed by Walter Winterbottom, only won one game, 2-0 against Chile, as they suffered a first-round exit. Surprise defeats to United States 1-0 and Spain 1-0 ended their participation.
- The top four teams from each group - Uruguay, Brazil, Sweden and Spain - qualified for the final round
- Brazil appeared on course for glory as they hammered Sweden 7-1 and Spain 6-1. Uruguay drew 2-2 with Spain and beat Sweden 3-2 to set up a decider for the title.
- In one of the biggest World Cup shocks of all time, Uruguay came from behind in the second half to win the final match 2-1 and lift the title.
1938: Hosts France, winners Italy
- None of the home nations played at the 1938 World Cup in France, where the tournament was a knockout from the very first round.
- The Dutch East Indies were among the competitors, losing 6-0 to Hungary in the first round. Cuba also took part, knocking out Romania before losing 8-0 to Sweden in the next phase.
- Defending champions Italy were the team to beat, winning against Norway 2-1, France 3-1 and Brazil 2-1 on their way to the final.
- Hungary, who hammered Sweden 5-1 in the semi-finals, also made the final but were beaten 4-2 by the dominant Italians.
1934: Hosts Italy, winners Italy
- Italy hosted the second World Cup, which involved none of the home nations as they instead played in their own championship. The Azzurri began with a convincing 7-1 victory over United States.
- Perhaps the shock of the opening round came when Spain beat Brazil 3-1 while Sweden edged out Argentina 3-2.
- Czechoslovakia made it all the way to the final, beating Romania 2-1, Switzerland 3-2 and Germany 3-1.
- Italy, who needed a replay to beat Spain before they edged out Austria 1-0, also made the final and lifted the trophy following a 2-1 victory over the Czechs in extra time.
1930: Hosts Uruguay, winners Uruguay
- The very first football World Cup was held in Uruguay, with 13 teams competing, none of them from the British Isles.
- Argentina appeared the dominant side as they beat France 1-0, Mexico 6-3 and Chile 3-1 before hammering United States 6-1 in the final four.
- The hosts Uruguay were also in good form as they won against Peru (1-0) and Romania (4-0) before also enjoying a 6-1 success in the semi-finals against Yugoslavia.
- In front of 93,000 fans in Montevideo, Uruguay lifted the first World Cup courtesy of a 4-2 victory over rivals Argentina.
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